Crime and Security Bill

Compulsory Licensing of Vehicle Clamping Businesses

18 November 2009

The crime and security bill will include compulsory licensing for all wheel-clamping businesses

Today's Queen's speech included the announcement that the new Crime and Security Bill will introduce a wide raft of measures including compulsory licensing for all wheel-clamping businesses.

In July 2009 the Home Office consulted on proposals to tighten up the rules for licensing of vehicle clamping businesses.

Licensing Of Wheel Clamping Businesses – a consultation paper »

The AA has been monitoring the problems caused by wheel clamping on private land ever since the issue first arose in the late 1980's. Motoring groups have been campaigning on the issue ever since and Edmund King, AA president has taken a particular interest in this subject which has resulted in several documentaries and undercover news reports to expose the excesses.

Security Industry Authority (SIA) Licensing

The current situation was shaped when SIA licensing commenced in May 2005.

The SIA estimates there are between 100 and 200 clamping businesses, mostly one or two person operations or small businesses, with no more than 10 operatives.

Compliance with the licence requires only a receipt to be given and no clamping or removal of blue badge holders – there are no stipulations regarding operating practice, which encourages things like 'double charging' (clamp/tow), which is common place.

BPA Approved Operator Scheme (AOS)

The British Parking Association (BPA) has recently published a new code of practice for wheel clamping, removals and issuing of parking tickets.

All Approved Operator Scheme members are required to comply with this revised code.

The BPA code remains weak though and often appears to be unenforced.

Access to DVLA register by parking ticket companies

DVLA has recently introduced a requirement for all parking companies seeking vehicle keeper information to be members of the BPA Approved Operator Scheme.

The AA has said that this new requirement should include a formal, fully independent appeal process.

AA/Populus1

83% agree that drivers should have a right to an independent appeal should there be a dispute

29% think wheel clamping should be made illegal in England and Wales

63% think wheel clamping should be more tightly regulated in England and Wales

86% of MPs think that wheel clamping on private land in England and Wales should either be outlawed or more tightly regulated (separate Populus poll of 100 MPs for the AA early in 2009).

Compulsory Business Licensing

The new Crime and Security Bill will introduce a wide raft of measures including compulsory licensing for all wheel-clamping businesses.

In Response to the Home Office's consultation earlier this year the AA voiced a number of concerns about the compulsory Business Licensing Scheme proposed.

In our experience of tracking some of the rogue clamping companies we have found that some companies appear to change their company names on an annual basis. This trend seems to follow investigations into the company or claims against them via the small claims court.

It is also suspected that as most of these companies demand payment in cash that changing of the company name is an attempt to avoid payment of tax.

As a result we are concerned that a company may acquire a Business Licence, infringe the code on a regular basis and then set up again as a new company.

The Home Office proposes that a parking industry trade association (currently only BPA) should decide licence conditions, compliance with standards, consider complaints and deliver re-dress.

The Home Office also proposes that licence holders should adhere to the BPA's Approved Operator Scheme code of practice and that failure to do so could result in a loss of licence.

The AA believes that, ideally, the scheme should be operated by an accredited third party independent of the parking business and that there must also be a right to an independent appeal process.

We are also concerned that those companies not wishing to go through the expense of the scheme would simply turn their attention to ticketing of vehicles on private land as has happened with some current clampers unable to get an SIA licence.

In view of recent breaches of the current industry code the public would not be reassured by having an industry trade body as a crucial player in the process. Unscrupulous clampers and SIA licence breaches will not be governed adequately by their own trade association.

Independent Appeals

It is essential that people have a right to challenge the legitimacy of a vehicle clamping or removal. A final appeal, if rejected by a clamper, should not be through the parking trade body, it should be independent and semi judicial as it is for on street offences.

It must be accepted that the scale of this problem is now huge – it is not just small tracts of private land but extremely large car parks at shopping centres, hospitals, theatres, motorways service areas, stations and so on.

Backstop

It is the AA's view that the Home Office should prepare or threaten legislation to outlaw private wheel clamping and vehicle removal so that the industry knows that if further regulation fails then clamping and removal will be outlawed as it is in Scotland.

The Home Office has indicated that a fully independent appeal system will be part of the business licensing proposals when published in detail.

Read AA advice - what to do if your car is clamped »

Join the discussion in the AA zone

 

19 November 2009
1AA Populus Panel survey in June 2008 13,905 responses.